Matsuri Mechanics

Matsuri Mechanics

It is time to start getting specific about the mechanics for matsuri. In the real world, most matsuri at jinja follow a fixed pattern. The participants are purified, standard miki and mikë are offered, and the shinshoku reads a standard norito, copied out of a book of norito. Such a matsuri will be the baseline, because any shinshoku could do this, with no chance of failure. I could do this with no chance of failure. So, this sort of matsuri grants the kami 1 point of shin’i, and makes a request. It does nothing to incline the kami to answer the request.

How does the kami decide whether to respond? The obvious mechanic is to have the kami roll a number of dice depending on the details of the matsuri, and keep a number equal to the strength of the highest relevant interest. A baseline matsuri provides no dice to roll, which means that the players roll twice as many dice as the level of the interest, and keep the lowest ones. Better matsuri provide more dice to roll. The difficulty for this roll, on the other hand, depends on the details of the request, and on the kami’s attitude to those details.

This means that it makes a lot of sense to go to a kami with an interest in a topic, or in you, even if there are other, more powerful, kami. The more powerful kami is likely to not answer your request at all. A weaker but interested kami, on the other hand, will do something for you. Still, we need to look at the question of what happens when the kami decides not to act. As mentioned earlier, “nothing happens” is not a good result from a die roll.

Although I want to avoid that sort of situation in general, I think I might keep it as the result of a failure on a baseline matsuri. Performing a matsuri out of a book shows that the personae are not investing much effort into the matsuri, so it is not an important part of the story. For a minor event, it is reasonable to simply say that nothing happens.

If the personae have put effort into the matsuri, however, things should be different. If the personae have made the effort to personalise and improve the matsuri, the kami provides instructions on what the petitioner should do to have her request fulfilled. These instructions would normally come in a dream, because that is the only way a kami can communicate with most people, but they might also come through divination, and a kannagi could be told directly. The more effort the personae put into the matsuri, the clearer and easier these instructions become. This is not just a game balance feature; it makes sense that a carefully-designed matsuri would get closer to convincing a kami to act than one slightly modified from the book, so that the personae need to add less to the matsuri to get a response.

If the kami decides to respond, she spends the shin’i, rolls the relevant interest, and keeps a number of dice dependent on her score in the relevant power. Something happens, but what happens depends on the result of the roll; the higher, the better. For a baseline matsuri, the kami will only use one power, but a more elaborate matsuri might make two or more requests. This would normally increase the difficulty to convince the kami to act, and it might be easier to perform two separate matsuri. A single matsuri, however, can only appeal to one of the nigimitama or aramitama; if the petitioner wants effects from both mitama, at least two matsuri are required. As mentioned in the last post, a matsuri might also grant the kami a bonus to these rolls.

It’s time to start putting some numbers onto these mechanics. These numbers are entirely preliminary, and are very likely to be changed as the rest of the mechanics get created, but we need to start somewhere.

Let’s say that the difficulty of convincing a kami to respond to a standard request is 4. If the kami has an interest in the topic, and so is keeping four dice, a response is guaranteed, even from a standard matsuri. There is simply no way to get less than 4 when keeping four dice. Ultimately, this number should be set to match the level of interest that characterises a kami with a particular interest in a topic; Tenjin’s interest in examinations, for example, or Inari’s interest in commercial prosperity. Performing a matsuri to ask such a kami to help is guaranteed a response.

What is the default effect? The effect will, obviously, vary a great deal depending on the nature of the request, but there is a good candidate for a default position. The kami can grant the petitioner more dice to roll. Having more dice to roll does not allow you to perform outside your normal range, but it does mean that you will, on average, do better within that range than you would otherwise. This works best for the nigimitama, particularly for prosperity, but that is possibly the most common petition. For the numbers, we can say that the kami grants one bonus die, plus one for every full three points of the total. That is, if the total is 1 or 2, the petitioner gets one bonus die, if it is 3, 4, or 5, the petitioner gets two, if it is 6, 7, or 8, the petitioner gets three, and so on. Every additional die that the kami keeps increases the maximum number of bonus dice by two. Each of these bonus dice can be used once, and personae get to decide when to use them. They can only be used on the activity for which the matsuri requested support, but otherwise they are under the control of the player.

There will need to be a lot of other possible effects for granted petitions, but this one can be applied to many situations, and gives us something concrete to look at when we turn to look at the parts of a matsuri.

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